Summer Crime, “Young Lawyers,” Martinis

Casual Friday.

Summer’s heat is fully upon us.  Let us take a moment for crime fiction and cocktails.

For recent crime-fiction releases, take a look at Midmonth Book Notes  from The Poisoned Pen bookstore.

Also, here is a useful “review of reviewers” from The Rap Sheet blog.  And, for the visually-oriented, The Rap Sheet has a YouTube channel.  One clip I found there was for a show called “The Young Lawyers,” which ran from 1969 to 1971 and which I vaguely recall.  As described by IMDb:

David Barrett [a young-looking Lee J. Cobb] heads an organization in Boston that supports poor and indigent clients with the aid of young lawyers, Aaron Silverman is the young idealist, Pat Walters is the black street-smart lawyer and Chris Blake is the WASP added to balance the cast.

The opening credits are outstanding, and show some sharp dressing across Harvard Yard:

 

Management course?

Inasmuch as White Collar Wire focuses on white-collar crime, this post by J. Kingston Pierce (the publisher of The Rap Sheet) about “business” in crime-novel titles fits well:

While contemplating the imminent release, in late July, of Killing Is My Business (Tor), Adam Christopher’s second novel in his speculative-fiction/crime-fiction series starring steely eyed, tough-talking robot private investigator Raymond Electromatic, I got to thinking about how many other imaginative yarns based in the realm of crime and corruption have included the word “business” in their titles. At least a good handful, it seems.

Plus, the book-covers are outstanding.

Better late than never, I came across Tipping My Fedora, a detective-fiction, all-media blog which has some fine entries.

 

Not casual Friday.

As long as we are on the subject of books, my favorite photo-book on the martini is The Martini: An Illustrated History of an American Classic by Barnaby Conrad III.  From the Amazon review:

A chilled, crystal glass; the purest gin; a touch of dry vermouth–vigorously shaken, not stirred–and a plump, green olive. The martini was and still is more than just a cocktail. Originally mixed in the nineteenth century, it became an American icon in the twentieth, and the favorite drink of such luminaries as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Jack London, and Ernest Hemingway. Bernard De Voto called the martini “the supreme American gift to world culture,” while H. L. Mencken declared it “the only American invention as perfect as a sonnet.”

The first book of its kind to explore the drink’s wide appeal, this volume serves up a fabulous cocktail of martini-inspired art, cartoons, collectibles, advertisements, and film stills that reveal how deeply this classic has permeated every aspect of American culture, from literature and film to politics and high society. Complete with bartending lore, traditional martini recipes, literary excerpts, memorable scenes from James Bond movies, and more, The Martini offers a toast to this intoxicating symbol of the American dream.

Bernard DeVoto.

For a mature understanding of the martini, however, there is no peer to The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto by critic Bernard DeVoto (1897-1955).  The Amazon review:

One part celebration, one part history, two parts manifesto, Bernard DeVoto’s The Hour is a comic and unequivocal treatise on how and why we drink―properly. The Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award–winning author turns his shrewd wit on the spirits and attitudes that cause his stomach to turn and his eyes to roll (Warning: this book is NOT for rum drinkers). DeVoto instructs his readers on how to drink like gentlemen and sheds new light on the simple joys of the cocktail hour. Daniel Handler’s introduction to this reprint of the 1950s classic provides a humorous framework for the modern reader.

The Hour is to the martini as The Elements of Style is to composition.  DeVoto hated olives (lemon twist instead) and railed against shaking (preferring the stirred martini, as do I).  People will call all sorts of messes a “martini,” but in these days of alleged “fake news” we do well to remember that a martini is a stirred gin cocktail.

 


Browning: “the poet, not the automatic”

anton chekhov

Does reading literary fiction really increase your social intelligence?  Here: I Know How You’re Feeling, I Read Chekhov

Maybe.  But what about crime fiction?

 

 

 

 

A little Raymond Chandler increases the social intelligence you really need.  The best crime fiction illumines sin, salvation and manners as well as Chekhov.

See this 1977 essay on Chandler by Clive James:  The Country Behind The Hill

‘In the long run’, Raymond Chandler writes in Raymond Chandler Speaking, ‘however little you talk or even think about it, the most durable thing in writing is style, and style is the most valuable investment a writer can make with his time.’ At a time when literary values inflate and dissipate almost as fast as the currency, it still looks as if Chandler invested wisely. His style has lasted. A case could be made for saying that nothing else about his books has, but even the most irascible critic or disillusioned fan (they are often the same person) would have to admit that Chandler at his most characteristic is just that – characteristic and not just quirky. Auden was right in wanting him to be regarded as an artist. In fact Auden’s tribute might well have been that of one poet to another. If style is the only thing about Chandler’s novels that can’t be forgotten, it could be because his style was poetic, rather than prosaic. Even at its most explicit, what he wrote was full of implication. He used to say that he wanted to give a feeling of the country behind the hill.

. . . .

Marlowe can be hired, but he can’t be bought. As a consequence, he is alone. Hence his lasting appeal. Not that he is without his repellent aspects. His race prejudice would amount to outright fascism if it were not so evident that he would never be able to bring himself to join a movement. His sexual imagination is deeply suspect and he gets hit on the skull far too often for someone who works largely with his head. His taste in socks is oddly vile for one who quotes so easily from Browning (‘the poet, not the automatic’). But finally you recognize his tone of voice.

It is your own, day-dreaming of being tough, of giving the rich bitch the kiss-off, of saying smart things, of defending the innocent, of being the hero. It is a silly day-dream because anyone who could really do such splendid things would probably not share it, but without it the rest of us would be even more lost than we are. Chandler incarnated this necessary fantasy by finding a style for it. His novels are exactly as good as they should be. In worse books, the heroes are too little like us: in better books, too much.